Their day decided, everyone hurried to get ready before it got too late. Nebula begged off claiming she had work to do. Although she was planning to secretly buy balloons and bake a cake for the party.
Penelope was no longer nervous meeting the other children at the park. She knew now that not everyone would be upset that she was an alien. Soon the two were embroiled in an epic space opera.
“We’re holding steady, all molecules are in their proper place and speed.” onezero called out. “Engaging fuchsia dectector, coordinates CC397B. She adjusted the ship’s speed as she deftly navigated between the spinning asteroids.
“Do you see anything, P1?”
Penelope stared through the swishing meteors. Trying to catch a glimpse of their enemy, the dreaded Bear Pirate. The pirate had pursued them across the galaxy on account of their cargo of cross-pollinated carrot cupcakes. Which they must deliver to the space station Endion to relieve hunger galaxy-wide.
“No yet!” she called back, before suddently –
She got the bubble cannons ready. “Nobody steal our cupcakes,” she growled as the ship banked, just barely avoiding one of the nearby asteroids. They pulled next to the pirate’s ship.
“Pop! Pop!” Penelope cried firing the cannon. “The magnetic moment of the bubbles will stop the pirate ship.”
“See, look. The ship can no longer move. It’s lost all momentum. Carry forth, p2! We must delivery our cargo before the bear finds a way to escape.
Nova was nearby playing chess with a neighbor.
“You’re a cop, huh?” Her opponent asked as they chatted.
“Detective,” Nova corrected with a smile. She was two moves from checkmate. It was fun watching Penelope and onezero play with the other children. Penelope had been so reserved. More afraid of what the kids would think about her. It had been an excellent idea to send her to camp.
“Isn’t that the police chief, walking over there?”
Nova turned, surprised, She didn’t know the chief was in the habit of frequenting this park. But the only man on the walking path was Cocoa, who was jogging.
“I didn’t see him,” she turned back to the board suspiciously. As she suspected her opponent had moved a piece on the board. As little good that did him. She checkmated him in three turns, never letting on that she’d noticed his cheat. As she was standing up to leave, she saw a familiar face.
“Just about, I’ve just got to set up the room. Send the girls in to help. But don’t let Cocoa in for another twenty minutes.
“What are you doing?” onezero asked their new friend who was handing from the the outside of the spaceship.
“It’s time for the spacewalk!” the girl replied. “I’m going to fly up to the cargo hatches to make sure our cupcakes are secure.
“She could fly,” onezero thought to herself. “She could really fly if she knew that the molecules surrounding her had spinning electrons and then if she let her own electrons spin in unison with them, the accumulating force of spinniness would lift her up and she could fly as high as high can be!”
“Girls,” Nebula called softy as she passed the playground. “Let’s go set up.” The two ran inside careful not to be seen by Cocoa who was preparing dinner.
Nova intercepted her cousin as he tried to find where the girls since they were no longer on the playground.
“I think they went to the bathroom,” she said as he pulled the hot dogs off the grill. Cocoa wasn’t much of a cook, that was Nebula’s forte, but since she wasn’t around, it was the least he could do.
Back inside, Nebula was putting the final touches on the party room.
“Perfect, now to set out the cake,” she said. They might not have a cupcake machine like the girls’ had wanted, but ice cream would be a cool treat for such a hot day.
“Do you think ice cream tastes as good as cupcakes?”
“‘As good as’ has no meaning for it implies sameness and we are more interested in not-so-sameness. What do you think about cold? And also creaminess? Do you think that the creaminess of icing is not-so-same as the creaminess of ice-cream? Or same-same?”
“True. If there is happiness involved, it is probably same-same. I predict that this ice cream will taste almost like cupcakes. But as you know it must taste different since since ice cream requires momentum to freeze. It must spin and spin before it can bring happiness. While cupcakes require heat.”
At last it was time and Nova hurried ahead to warn the group that Cocoa was coming.
“Surprise!” Nova and the girls shouted as Cocoa walked in the door. He looked over at the bar where a cake stood, candle already lit. Wait, he thought. Who’s birthday is it?
“Happy Birthday dear Cocoa!” onezero and Peneleope sang together their light voices joined by an almost audible buzzing harmony. He checked his age bar. All that time in the gallery and in the Timeless save, but yep. Full bar. It was his birthday.
“Thought you might.” Nebula said from behind him with a big smile. “It was the girls’ idea. onezero thought a surprise party would be best and Penelope decided on the park as our location.
“Are you going to blow out the candles now?” Penelope asked. She hadn’t ever attended a birthday party before and was excited to see what she considered the main event. The birthday spin. “Make a wish!” she shouted. As everyone got ready to celebrate.
Cocoa thought long and hard about his wish. It wasn’t everyday you became an adult. His life was pretty good, good friends, good job, great family. What more did he want?
Penelope gave her dad a big hug. “You are the best father I could have,” she said, holding him close.
Then it was time for the party to begin.
As it grew dark, onezero found Cocoa laying outside staring up at the sky.
“It’s hard to see the hard drives in the daytime” she said after a moment of companionable silence.
“How did you know I was looking for them?” Cocoa asked surprised. “I thought it might be late enough. But I can only see the clouds. That one looks like a hungry piglet.”
onezero giggled as the tiny piglet cloud raced across the darkening sky before vanishing into a much larger cloud.
He laid there watching the cloud long after it had submerged itself into the larger one thinking about this little girl. Not his daughter, but there was a pull, a familiarity between them even though they had just met a few days ago. This alien from another hard drive.
“Did they speak to you?” onezero asked.
“The thousand ones, when they took you and gave you Penelope.”
“I don’t remember it happening at all, actually. So if they did speak to me, I forgot it. I hear that’s common here. Not to remember.” He tried to think back to that night. He remembered waking up in the middle of the night, when normally he slept until morning, and then it was morning and he was standing outside. There was a buzz that filled him, like a thousand tiny particles pressing against him.
“That’s the song of the the 1,000 mommies.” onezero explained although Cocoa didn’t remember speaking aloud. “You have a gentle heart, that’s why they gave you Penelope. It’s twice as gentle as other hearts. There.” she pointed.
“That’s my hard drive.”
They were all tired, but onezero had something that needed to be done before she was ready to go to bed. Plus she’d promised CathyTea that she would keep in touch.
Once that was done, she headed off to bed.
“Goodnight, P1,” she whispered.